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Pvt. Paul R. Thomer Biography-4

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Paul Thomer & His Melbourne Elgin Watch

Paul arrived in Melbourne on January 12, 1943. On February 10, he purchased an Elgin watch from a local jewelry store and had it custom-engraved. The fixed-lug, stainless-steel case was manufactured by the J. W. Handley Watch Case Co, Australia's largest. 

Paul's watch survived his final Marine combat at Cape Gloucester, New Britain (December 1943) and subsequent posts in the US. He returned to his Pittsburgh hometown with the watch in 1945. At some point thereafter, the watch stopped working and it was presumably discarded (like most WW2 servicemen watches).

I purchased Paul's watch case on eBay -- there was the original crystal, a well-worn Elgin dial, but no movement. The seller indicated that it was purchased as part of a large lot of old watch parts from a dealer in western PA (which, of course, includes Pittsburgh). Master horologist and watchmaker Phillip Ehorn from Once Upon A Tyme in Cambria, CA was able to find an Elgin watch movement that would fit in the case and expertly restored Thomer's watch. I then added a genuine WW2 canvas strap before contacting his family.

We'll never know how a steel watch case with no intrinsic value escaped the junkyards -- it was simply good karma that I was able to find and return Paul's watch to his family in 2023, exactly 80 years after he purchased it. .

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Book no.1
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